Ahead of the launch of the Ferrari SF71H in February, based on rumours we were hearing from trusted sources, we suggested that the Maranello outfit was on the verge of pulling a major surprise.
Ahead of the launch, Ferrari had issued a 32-word press release confirming that it had extended its partnership agreement with Philip Morris International. “By virtue of this agreement, Scuderia Ferrari and Philip Morris international continue a collaboration of nearly five decades,” it read.
Yet, just five months earlier, the Italian team had issued almost exactly the same press release.
“Ferrari N.V. announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its multi-year partnership with Philip Morris International,” it read. “The agreement continues the collaboration of over 40 years between Philip Morris International and Scuderia Ferrari.”
On the day before the 22 February launch, Philip Morris International (PMI), owner of Marlboro, announced its revolutionary smoke-free vision for the future. Revealing that it was to work with Ferrari, PMI said that extending its partnership with the Italian team was all about “advancing the cause of a smoke-free world”.
“We want to give the world’s 1.1 billion men and women who smoke the opportunity to make better and informed choices,” said PMI chief executive, Andre Calantzopoulos. “We are committed to use all available resources, including our motorsports-related activities, to accelerate momentum around this revolutionary change for the benefit of people who smoke, public health and society at large. We deeply appreciate Scuderia Ferrari‘s support in this cause.”
“Creating global awareness of the opportunity presented by innovation, science and technology to achieve a smoke-free world is of paramount importance,” said PMI is its own press release announcing the extension of its partnership with Ferrari. “In addition to PMI’s unwavering commitment to this goal, it is critical that governments, public health experts, the scientific community and civil society embrace the challenge and help put in place a sensible regulatory plan. The men and women who smoke and the people who care about them truly deserve this.
“Scuderia Ferrari is the perfect partner for this challenge,” it added, “because it harnesses a pioneering spirit, technology and innovation in a relentless pursuit of great ambitions. Our plan does not envisage any product-specific communications. We expect to announce further details in the coming months.”
Following a 22-year relationship with McLaren, in 1996 Marlboro jumped ship to Ferrari, and while the familiar branding disappeared from the Maranello cars in 2007 – two years after the European Union ban on tobacco advertising in sport began – in the years that followed the Marlboro ‘signage’ became ever more obscure, but nonetheless the partnership continued.
Currently for a figure thought to be in the region of $100m a year, Marlboro buys all the advertising space on the Ferrari and subsequently subleases it to the team’s various sponsors.
Ahead of the 22 February launch we speculated that the new car would either sport logos reflecting PMI’s smoke-free vision, or, in an even more dramatic move, drop a number of sponsor logos.
Ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix it appears that Ferrari is indeed about to revise its livery, though over the course of the season there have been numerous ‘false starts’.
While there is intense speculation as to how radical the revision might be, we wonder whether our prediction in February might still be wide of the mark and the Italian team might drop other sponsor logos in favour of whatever PMI is choosing to run.
As we said at the time, a Ferrari appearing with few sponsor decals could send shockwaves through the F1 paddock, for if the Maranello outfit, or PMI, sees less point (or value) in logos – even if it is a bid to direct attention to a cause or message – what hope those teams still struggling to find new backers.
All will be revealed soon enough.